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Four missing ingredients in the SA startup space

  • By Alan Knott-Craig
  • December 1, 2014

A US venture capitalist asked me this weekend, “What do tech startups in SA need?”

My knee-jerk reaction was “Nothing!”, but after some reflection I’ve settled on four things we need if we’re ever going to take over the world:

1. Angry capital

Only Silicon Valley could have funded Uber and AirBNB.

Nowhere in the world is capital as impatient, smart and risk-hungry as Silicon Valley, and that’s what you need if you going to scale virtual/real world hybrid products such as Uber.

The problems of Africa are real world problems, mobile phones will enable the solutions, the teams will need to be on the ground.

We need access to angry capital without having to relocate to San Francisco. 

2. Commercial skills

South Africa is known for producing hard-working world-class engineers. The problem is we suffer from a “build it and they will come” mentality.

No one will come. People are busy. You have to attract their attention.

We need a StartUp School that takes wannabe entrepreneurs with deep domain expertise and gives them an intensive 3 month crash course on sales, finance and general commercial skills. 

3. SV best practices

Its hard to beat an experienced product manager from one of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Growth metrics, product spec’s, developer management systems, data analytics, you name it, the guys in SV have perfected it.

Why reinvent the wheel?

South Africans can either move to SF and learn from the best, bringing those skills to bear back home, or we can hire skills from SF.

Either way, you can’t self-teach decades of experience in the trenches. 

4. Confidence

If you think you can win then you have a 1% chance of winning.

If you don’t think you can win then you have 0% chance of winning.

South Africa has a proud history of engineering and software success. Don’t let the USA media drown out our local stories.

Find a problem that is local and solve it, and never stop believing that we can export our solutions globally, and take over the world. 

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